Ready for a good stretch? When it comes to a hat that fits perfectly, some stretching might be exactly what you need. Achieving the ideal fit depends on the kind of hat you have and what it’s made of. Natural fibers in hats can cause gradual shrinking over time, especially if you ever have to wash it. Not to mention sweat, humidity, and weather all contribute to shrinking hat syndrome. But that doesn’t mean if a hat is a little too snug you have to ditch it altogether and buy a new hat. Follow these few simple techniques and you’ll be able to stretch and resize your hat in no time.
Try Before You Buy
The first thing to do is choose a hat that gives you comfortable wear. If you select an ultra-fitted hat or a tight hat, it will only end up being a headache...literally.
On the other hand, you don't want a hat so big that your head is floating around inside and you're constantly worried it's going to fall off.
Helpful tip: If you can fit one finger between your head and the cap, then you know you have the right size.
Break It In
Whether it's a brand-new baseball cap or an old cowboy hat, a simple way to stretch your hat into shape is to wear it, wear it, wear it. This will naturally loosen the material so that it better conforms to your head.
Spray and Stretch
If wearing the hat isn't stretching it as quickly as you'd like, it could be time to break out the blow dryer and a spray bottle of water. The following method works well with different hat materials including straw, soft fabrics such as cotton hats, fitted baseball hats, and classic felt designs.
Items You Need
- Spray bottle of water
- Blow dryer
- Fill a spray bottle with lukewarm water (not hot water) and spritz inside and outside the crown, plus the inside band. There is no need to wet the brim as it does not need to shrink. This is especially important with vintage hats such as baseball caps made before the early ‘80s, which have cardboard bills.
- Be careful not to douse the hat to the point where it's dripping wet as this could cause unwanted damage or dye bleeding.
- Turn on the hairdryer to its highest setting. Hold the hat and blow-dry the exterior and interior until the material is mostly dry.
- Once the hat is just mildly damp, put it on and let it air dry. This will assist that hat to stretch and mold to the correct shape of your head.
Steam Into Shape
Steaming is a popular method for stretching a hat since it's an effective way to loosen natural fibers. Like the water spray method, steaming works well with different hat materials including straw, cotton, and wool felt.
Items You Need
- Tea kettle of water or small pot of water
- Blow dryer
- Heat up the tea kettle or pot of water until the water begins to boil.
- Hold the hat's brim to get a good grip. Next, angle the hat so that the interior is about six inches away from the steam of the kettle or pot. Hold for one minute, ensuring enough steam reaches the hat’s inside band as well.
- Remove the hat from the heat for 30 seconds. Repeat this process at least four times.
- Turn on the hairdryer to its highest setting. Hold the hat and blow-dry inside the crown until the material is mostly dry.
- Once it's mildly damp, wear the hat and let it air dry to stretch into the right size for your head.
Use Tools of the Trade
If you prefer a more laissez faire approach to stretching your hat, consider using basic hat stretchers such as the Hat-Jack. This is a simple tool that can be purchased online and can also be used to maintain a hat's size when not in use. Much like a shoe stretcher, the adjustable wood device acts like a jack inside the hat to expand the size. While you could just insert the contraption in a dry hat and wait for the results, you can speed up the process a bit by steaming the hat first.
Bonus: Hat-Jack works for both felt and straw hats, plus it absorbs moisture and preserves leather sweatbands.
Items You Need
- Hat stretching device
- Tea kettle or pot of water (optional)
- If you are steaming the hat first, follow steps 1 and 2 of "Steam Into Shape." If not, read on.
- Place the hat stretcher inside your hat and crank the device open until it's taut. Make sure the hat stretcher is placed against (not above) the hatband, otherwise it might leave an imprint on the crown and ruin its shape.
- Leave overnight and then try on the hat. Repeat the process if further stretching is necessary.
- You can also try stretching a hat by placing it over the knee and pulling firmly. This works best on cotton baseball caps.
More than just for kicking around the field, the common soccer ball can be a useful device for stretching a hat. While you can easily use this technique with a dry hat, you should first follow the steps for spritzing or steaming if you want a bigger stretch.
Items You Need
- Youth-sized soccer ball
- Place the hat around a youth sized soccer ball.
- Leave overnight and then try the hat on. Repeat the process if the desired size is not achieved.
- The hat should easily slip off the ball and bounce back, so to speak.
- Note: This method helps achieve a larger size hat, but it's less precise than a Hat-Jack and much more difficult to predict the exact amount of stretching.
If the Hat Fits, Wear It
Now that you've gone through the actual process of stretching a hat, you have a little know-how on getting the right fit. Keep in mind that each approach may take a few go-rounds, but they will work. A hat should always feel comfortably snug, never tight or constricting. Once you've figured out which hat stretching method works best for you, get ready to enjoy the perfect size and never wear a pinching hat again.